Improving web video – Three S’s Part 1:Sequences

Over the last few weeks of training I have found myself repeating a mantra for improving video that I thought I would share over a couple of posts.

A lot of newspaper/web/videographer (or whatever we are calling it this week!) video out is picking the right thing to show but in execution suffers in three main areas:

  • Sequences
  • Script
  • Sound.

Why sequences?

The key thing to bear in mind with most video you produce is that it will need editing. What we don’t want to do is cut out the meaning of the content or breakup the structure and flow. But we do want control over the story telling within the time frame we get. We don’t want video to end up being overlong because the shot we had to use demanded it. Sequences are a key to putting us in control.

Sequences are a set of shots that cut together to recreate an action or event. This is different from what we call general views ( b-roll is another term) which are images cut together to give an impression of a scene. So for a sequence to work you need to think about how each shot will work together with another.

BBC man Vin Ray likens shooting a good sequence to playing snooker. You need to play a shot thinking about where the ball will end up for the next shot and the next. Shooting for editing is the same. You need to think about how one shot lead in to another.

Basic sequences

Consider this establishing shot of people working at a craft fair. What details are your eyes drawn to? Those are the building blocks of the sequence.

Establishing shot

The grabs below are stills from the rest of the footage I shot. Each shot was held for around 10 seconds.

Detail shots for craft scene

You could take the shots above and use them in pretty much any order to build up a sequence to illustrate what was going on. If I was short of time in my edit I could use the first two shots and the last two and still have a workable sequence. The key thing is I’m in control.

Continuity

The example above is pretty controllable as it’s all about action in the frame. But sequences come in to their own when the movement is in a bigger space. The key then is to make sure any action clears the frame before you change the shot. Watch the video below from SA website The Times.

At the point where the chief of police walks past the camera to deliver a wreath (about a minute) at a memorial the camera follows him, tracking him as he goes. As a result, a few seconds later the editor has tried to smooth over a jump cut with a dissolve.

[flv]http://multimedia.thetimes.co.za/flvideo/453.flv[/flv]

If the camera person had let the guy clear the frame and then turned round to shoot the dissolve fudge wouldn’t have been necessary. We know he is going somewhere. The next shot would have shown us where.

Planning

The secret to good sequences, static or through the frame, is planning. Knowing what the story is, looking for the structures in action, makes it easy to reconstruct it in a way that drives the narrative but in a controllable way.

Take a look at the video on your site and identify the videos that use sequences. I’m guessing that those videos would also be the ones that you rate. But, speaking of driving the narrative…

…the next S to look at is Script.